Pledges of EU troops to boost the peacekeeping force in Lebanon have gone some way into relieving fears that a military vacuum could reignite the conflict. The imminent arrival of at least some of the seven thousand troops promised has taken some of the weight off the few French soldiers who are already there.
EU foreign ministers had feared that their troops would become more embroiled in the conflict that they wanted. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: “The disarmament of Hizbollah cannot be done by force. It has to be a political agreement between the Lebanese, there has to be a Lebanese consensus and an agreement amongst them to disarm.”
Italy will eventually take control of the force; some of its contingent can apparently leave for Lebanon as early as next week. But initially it will be the French in command who already have a military presence in the south. France’s Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie spelled out the assurances her government had needed before pledging more troops. “In case of violation of the truce, or if the UN resolution is violated, the soldiers must have the necessary rules, being allowed to shoot, to obtain the respect of the established order”. A further stipulation has been a clear chain of command both on the ground and back at UN headquarters. With soldiers from EU countries and others, clarity in who is giving the orders is seen as essential.